February 8, 2015 by Katie Harrison
So…next revolutions took us to Dunedin, the third largest city in NZ and another port town. The first night a twist of fate meant we bumped into the same Dutch couple we befriended in Nelson, Martin and Kirstin. They had circumnavigated the island in a car the opposite way around and ended up in the same place. We read this as divine intervention and are now best friends forever.
We then headed up the Otago peninsular for some wildlife spotting. 20km in and the now Easterly wind was absolutely brutal! We camped up for the night and then traversed to the Eastern side of the peninsular in the morning. This takes 10minutes in a car (normal tourist attire) 1 hour of slogging up a vertical hill later we cruised down to see a fat sea lion in a deep slumber, clearly knackered from gorging on fish all night to feed his blubber. Not yet finished we braved the wind again to the far tip to see the Albatrosses swirling around on the wind. Magical birds, we saved the $90 entrance fee and sat in the car park to watch them. It is the only place in the world where they nest on a mainland. Goose pimple skin amazing.
Next on the plan was to ride a 300km off road route through Central Otago. This required a shuttle up to the town of Middlemarch where the Central Otago Rail Trail starts. A 2hr shuttle inland and the landscape changes completely. We went from rugged wet coast to completely dry, flat and boiling hot central plateau. The route follows a historic gold mining railway line through farming country. What used to be forestland was first burned by native Maoris who discovered that fire makes the massive Moa Birds (3.6meters I’m height) run out and easy to catch. The population of birds was completely hunted to extinction in the 14th century. It is now all dedicated to farming apart from an immaculate, well maintained cycle path and regular cafe stops to enjoy. Cycling along we are now surrounded by jutting rocks, sun bleached farming and retro wooden railway infrastructure. Basically a set for a good western. It is so dry up here you are not allowed to smoke cigarettes on the trail at all or light camp fires in case of bush fire.
The next was the Roxburgh gorge trail. This is two days of steep hillsides strewn with giant boulders leading down a willow-lined river. This is supposed to be the hottest part of the country but we were treated to grey clouds and drizzle, we had to be careful not to moan as the rain is treasured by the locals.
And the final 80km was along the Clutha Gold trail heading back towards the coast. Following the Clutha Mata River. The trail designers have brought the historic gold rushes to life with information boards along the trail. Gold was found in the river beds by the Maori, initially they kept quite to avoid a rush of hedonistic westerners but the news got out. Hoards of mostly single young men fled to the area, freezing (in the winter) starving and hoping each day they would find something to make them rich in their pan. Decades of innovation bought gold panning machines and then finally a team of Chinese settlers arrived to re-sift the old ground. There is still a settlement here with a pig hanging oven to see.
And this landed us in Lawrence, needing a rest. A cold weather front had moved in and we have finally after 10 months had to camp and cycle in the rain. Bleugh… Cafés and books until we figure out what to do next.
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